You already know that scheduling your tasks—whether you’re timeboxing, task batching, or theming entire days—is a major priority when it comes to being productive and getting stuff done.
But when you have a bunch of tasks and don’t even know where to start with scheduling them by priority, you need an efficient method to decide what to get on right away, what to delegate, and what to forget about. Let’s see how the Eisenhower Matrix can help you sort all that out.
What is the Eisenhower Matrix?
This assessment and productivity tool is named for former president Dwight Eisenhower, who once quoted Dr. J. Roscoe Miller’s proclamation, “I have two kinds of problems: the urgent and the important.
The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent.” Apologies to Dr. Miller, but the more famous man ended up with the honor of having this system named after him.
When using the Eisenhower Matrix, you draw a standard matrix with two intersecting lines that create four quadrants. The X axis represents urgency and the Y axis represents importance, so the top left quadrant will show you tasks that are both urgent and important; the top right quadrant houses tasks that are not urgent but are important; the bottom left quadrant is for tasks that are not important but are urgent; and the bottom right quadrant contains tasks that are not urgent and not important. It looks like this:
How to use the matrix
You can create your own matrix on paper or with software like draw.io or even specialty services like eisenhower.me. Next, just plug your tasks into the matrix, sorting them by their combination of urgency and importance. The real key is what you do next.
Per productivity giant Asana, the quadrants have secondary purposes beyond identifying what is urgent or important: The top left quadrant is for tasks you have to buckle down and do now, and the top right quadrant is for tasks you need to schedule to do in the future.
Along the bottom, the left quadrant represents tasks you need to delegate to someone capable and the right quadrant shows you the tasks you can simply delete or put off.
Once you see all your duties on the matrix, delegate the urgent and not-important ones and schedule the important but non-urgent ones, then get to work on your pressing, upper-right-quadrant tasks. If the deadline is seriously looming, do those first before worrying about delegation or scheduling.
This visual representation of how important and urgent each responsibility is can help you figure out what to devote your time to instead of wasting time panicking about how much you think you have to get done.